Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

Submit your own Cost of Living survey!

Approximate conversion rates as of February 20th, 2018

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0.60 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Matthew

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120,000 - 165,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a fairly decent international school and also give regular private lessons. 120K is my regular, after tax salary (including housing allowance). I usually receive an extra 45K per month for one day per week of exam preparation classes (either Saturday or Sunday). The 45K is sometimes less as classes can be cancelled on special days, such as Mother's Day.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

It varies, but over the last year I've averaged 85K a month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a one-bedroom, partially furnished condo close to the BTS & MRT. It costs 15K per month. The building is newish and has a nice pool & views. No complaints!

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

Not a lot really. I used to take a BTS / taxi combo to work, but now I've bought a decent motorbike and transport is cheap. Whilst I realise I may one day die on Thailand's crazy roads, I love the bike and am not giving it up! I'd guess 400 baht a month in petrol and the occasional taxi. Total about 1,000.

b) Utility bills

The condo isn't huge (60sqm) so doesn't cost too much to cool (especially since I'm never there). Luckily the building doesn't pad the electricity bill, which I pay at 7-11. I do the cleaning myself so no maid bill (is a maid a utility?). Total for electricity & water is usually about 1,000 baht, plus another 1,000 for mobile phone and internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food at school is free, decent, and relatively healthy, so I fill my belly at lunchtime. Dinner is rarely more than a couple of hundred baht unless I'm treating a friend. Whilst I've never actually added up all the receipts, I'd guess I go through about 10K a month (and more during school holidays)

d) Nightlife and drinking

I'm a keen footballer and play or train most days. This means that I'm usually tired in the evenings and in bed before 10.00pm. Once or twice a month I go out with the boys, and when I do I generally drink a lot and don't care what I spend. Probably 5 - 10K a month.

e) Books, computers

This is covered by school. All the international schools seem to have libraries that are better than most of Bangkok's bookshops and mine is free for teachers to use (they even let me take a stack of books to read in the holidays). I have an aging CPU at home which will need replacing soon but it's not a priority as my school provides all teachers with laptops.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's great. A combination of work (6 days during term time), sport and socialising means I'm never at a loose end. I've lived in Bangkok for 5 years now and love the place. When I think about the prospect of moving home (Birmingham, England), I cringe! The real kickers here are the holidays (two weeks more than UK schools) and the savings (in England I saved about 200 GBP a month but here I save almost 10 times as much).

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Rent & bills - in Birmingham approximately 40% of my salary went in direct debits. Here it is more like 10%. I also like the happy 'hours' in Bangkok British pubs that are generally about 8 hours long.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I think I'd be OK on 50K a month. But would that cover trips home and big purchases like computers or motorbikes? I see a lot of jobs on your website offering salaries of 30 to 40K a month and wonder what kind of life that entails. To be honest I'm not sure why people apply for these jobs. If you are qualified then you can do SO much better... and if you aren't qualified, you shouldn't be teaching.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Matt - and great to hear from a fellow Brummie! Do you get to go back home every year to see what you're most definitely NOT missing?

What can I say? Matt describes his standard of living as 'great'. 

85,000 a month being stashed away in the bank. Free meals and laptops from the school. Plenty of books on offer at the school library. Well-paid overtime. Life sounds a damn sight better than 'great'. It sure beats going back to a bedsit in Edgbaston after a hard day's work in a Birmingham school. Right, Matt?  

 

 


James

Working in Pattaya

Monthly Earnings 54,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I get 35,000 per month from my full-time job at a government school and I charge private students 400 baht per hour. I have ten privates at the moment, all an hour long in the evening except Thursdays, which is two hours. I charge privates monthly to reduce flakiness or to avoid losing money for cancellations but sometimes give refunds if students cancel ahead of time. So salary is 35K and privates 19K.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

At the start of each month, I put 20,000 directly into savings at the bank and various secret piggy banks. This goes towards an annual trip back to England, other travel plans and for the general future. I rarely dip into that as I try to live within my means and budget accordingly. Some teachers might save more than that but I enjoy my lifestyle and it's enough for me to feel safe. Anything I don't spend by the end of the month, I also put into savings.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I spend 10,000 baht a month on a small but very modern condo just a very short distance from Jomtien Beach. The building also has a gym so there are no additional expenses for keeping fit.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

My motorbike is 3,000 per month (bought on monthly payments) plus roughly another 600-800 baht (give or take) on petrol. So lets say transport costs 3,800.

b) Utility bills

About 1,500, going up to about 1,800 during hotter months.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My condo doesn't have a kitchen so I have to eat out. I'm not a massive fan of a lot of Thai food so I alternate between market food / Lotus food court and international so occasional trips to Yayoi, Shabushi, Indian places, Sizzler and Carls Jr eat up a chunk of my pay. I'll say give or take 8,000-10,000 per month.

d) Nightlife and drinking

My philosophy is work hard in the week and enjoy weekends, particularly as I live in Pattaya. I go out to bars or clubs on Walking Street with friends every 2 weeks and chill on Jomtien beach (free) on other weekends. How much I spend when I go out varies from around 500 to sometimes 3000 or more. I sometimes go on dates to cafes, bars or restaurants. I'll put nightlife at 6,000-10,000 per month roughly. I'll say a rough figure as I also like to occasionally go to Koh Samet/Bangkok but not every month.

e) Books, computers

I've had a trusty computer for a long time and use the printer/photocopier at school for preparing my private class materials, plus my school provides books which I occasionally "borrow" too so I don't tend to spend anything on these unless I need laptop/phone repairs.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I work hard in the week and enjoy my weekends. Anything else is a bonus.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Street food, clothes from the market, getting around.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

See in comment section below.

Phil's analysis and comment

James had the following to say on how much you need to survive.

"It depends on you, your lifestyle, needs, food preferences and how much you're prepared to work. You could "survive" on 25,000 a month or less but the key word there is surviving. You'd be living in a grubby, Thai style apartment, far from the coolest parts of town and living like a monk. You'll eat rice three times a day, every day. Your neighbours will be a pot-bellied, chain-smoking, drug addict from Germany who doesn't look at you, and a vendor who starts making banging and clanging noises at 6am every day. Not really the life you want in Sin City. To have a halfway decent life, live in ok apartment and occasionally go out, I'd say you should be looking at 35,000 baht per month or more"

Thanks James. The fact that you clearly make a very good go of living and working in Pattaya will come as great encouragement to some folks, especially those who like to work hard during the week and party hard at the weekends (and there ain't nothing wrong with that). I haven't been to Jomtien Beach for almost twenty years. I bet it's changed beyond all recognition. 


Robert

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

My salary from a private school job is 38K a month.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Nothing.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 4,000 baht a month for a filthy bedsit on the outskirts of the city - but I love it!

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

Nothing, I walk to and from school.

b) Utility bills

400-500 baht a month. I never turn on the air-con, it's a rich man's game!

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

As little as possible. Eating is for wimps! I prefer the liquid diet.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I pour well over half my salary down my throat on an average month - and I slum it in the cheapest places!

e) Books, computers

Nada! I steal what I need from torrent sites.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Very comfy. I could do with a little extra so I can drink in classier places and maybe enjoy a few days away to Sin City once in a while but I'm good all the same.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Women and booze.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Depends on your lifestyle. For a bloke like me, 38,000 does the job nicely. Locals survive on much less so what do we know?

Phil's analysis and comment

Way to go Rob! Are you one of those guys who can walk into the classroom after a 'mega sesh' the night before and still do a great job? I bet you are aren't you? But take it easy my son.

And if you could sober up long enough to point your mobile phone camera in the right direction, we'd love to see some snaps of that filthy bedsit on the outskirts of town.  


Troy

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings Around 60,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

Weekends at a private language school make me just shy of 30,000 a month. The other 30,000 baht a month comes from on-line teaching from Monday to Friday.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

10,000 - 20,000. Sometimes maybe even a bit more.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I share a one-bedroom apartment with my Thai girlfriend. We've been together for three years and she earns about the same amount per month as I do so we split virtually everything down the middle. Our rent is 15,000 baht a month so 7,500 each. It's a nice place and from the 18th floor we have a great view of Eastern Bangkok when you're standing out on the balcony.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

It's not a major expense for me. I do four journeys at the weekend by sky-train and the odd taxi fare. I bet this is no more than 2,000 baht. My partner runs a car so she has modest repayments, gas, repairs, insurance, etc. I don't pay anything towards that but might occasionally stick my hand in my pocket for a tank of petrol if we're out together (about 800 baht)

b) Utility bills

We always have the air-conditioning on when we're at home and I'm at home most of the time from Monday to Friday. Our electricity bill usually comes to around 3,000 baht. Water is another 300. Phones and internet, etc adds another 2,000 baht to the monthly expenses as well.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My partner and I tend to do our own thing as far as eating is concerned and so keep our food bills entirely separate. On Saturday and Sunday when I'm working at the language centre, I grab whatever takes my fancy from the shopping mall. During the week, when I'm at home, I stock up on take-away meals from the supermarket (mostly Thai food) and stockpile them in the freezer to last me five days. I would say I spend about 6,000 baht on food for myself.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Chance would be a fine thing. I'm too busy with work at the weekends to meet up with my drinking pals and during the week, no one really wants to go out. So generally I don't bother. The weekday evenings are the only time I get to spend some quality time with my partner, albeit for just a few hours.

e) Books, computers

Nothing really. My laptop is five years old and still going strong. I bought a nice desktop computer last year for 50,000. I'm not really a great reader. I've never had the patience to sit quietly and read books.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Fantastic! But of course let's not beat about the bush, life is a lot easier when you have a Thai partner earning a decent wage. We've got 120,000 a month coming into the kitty minus the main expenses of accommodation, food and car costs. There's still plenty of disposable income there.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Food can be very reasonable if you get yourself organised (and I do) Buy some stuff from the supermarket and some from the street and you can combine it to make some great meals.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I wouldn't want to live on less than 50,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

Troy went into a bit more detail about his 60,000 baht a month earnings and how his income is broken down.

"I've been very lucky to work for the same language centre for three years and the owner has always treated me well. I'm a decent teacher, I'm reliable and the kids and parents like me. The right attitude has taken me a long way because I make 600 baht an hour and do six hours on a Saturday and the same on Sundays. 30,000 baht for just your weekends is not to be sniffed at I guess. 

From Monday to Friday, I do about three hours of on-line teaching per day. I could do more if I wanted but after those exhausting weekends (and they are exhausting) I value a bit of free time during the week.

The downside to my current schedule is that I probably don't see enough of my partner. She has time off at the weekend but I'm working. It's a very rare Saturday or Sunday when we get the chance to do something together. It's certainly something I would like to address in the future but I'm not sure what the solution is"

Thanks a lot Troy. To everyone reading this, come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers help there.

Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey'


Gary

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I get a 45,000 baht salary from the Thai secondary school where I work and I generally bump that up by 5,000 baht a month doing the odd private student either on-line or face-to-face.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

It varies between 5,000 and about 20,000 I guess. I have managed to save about 100,000 baht in the twelve months I've been here so far and I am going to use that money to pay for a trip home in March / April.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I just moved from a centrally located Bangkok apartment, for which I was paying 8,000 baht a month, to a similar apartment in the suburbs for 6,000. I didn't make the move to save money on rent. There is simply less temptation to spend money where I am now because it's a quieter neighborhood. It's also slightly closer to work.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I ride a bicycle actually so the 10-15 ride to school and back costs me nothing. I might take the odd taxi at the weekend but generally my monthly transportation costs are very low.

b) Utility bills

I get a nice breeze coming in off the balcony if I keep the back door open so it enables me to stay away from the money-eating air-conditioner. My bills come to about 1,500 a month for electricity, water and phone. Not bad at all.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love my food but I've cut down on the amount of Western food I eat because I think most of it is extremely poor value for money. I think Japanese food is expensive as well here. When I arrived in Thailand, I wasn't a great fan of Thai food but I've kinda forced myself to like it. It's an obvious thing to say but you can really cut down on your food bill if you stick to Thai food only. But I still spend about 10,000 a month if you factor in supermarket shopping.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I still live alone (and prefer it that way) but the novelty of Bangkok's famous nightlife has really started to wear off now. Whereas I used to be out three or four nights a week. I've cut it down to just Friday and Saturday because I don't have to work the following day. I can get through a couple of thousand on a good night out so I bet this category costs me 12,000 a month if I add it all up.

e) Books, computers

I like my gadgets and I download quite a few E-books so this probably comes in at about 3-4K a month.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

As I said, I've only been here for a year but I'm delighted with how that first year has gone. I've managed to find employment at a decent school where I'm certainly not overworked and for the time being, I can live very happily on 50K a month. I've got a decent apartment and I'm not going hungry or lacking a social life.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Like most large 'international' cities, there's no limit to the amount of money you could spend but it's all about living within your means. I know the kind of lifestyle I can afford and it's all about not going crazy when your paycheck hits the bank account each month. I find Bangkok a very reasonably-priced city to live in if you can avoid those Western temptations.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I think 50,000 is more than enough for someone in my position. I could push myself and earn more by taking on more private students (I'm always getting asked) but at this moment, I'm not really interested in killing myself.

Phil's analysis and comment

Gary sounds very happy with his lot. He's made a few modifications to his lifestyle, by for example moving out to an area of the city where the temptations are fewer, but that sounds like a sensible move. 'Always live within your means' - I got that same advice from my very first boss and I've never forgotten it.

A lot of teachers face the same situation as Gary - do I push myself and take on a few more private students to maybe make another 10-20,000 a month, but it's a trade-off. You're going to be eating into your free time and our free time is the most precious commodity of all.

If you would like to share your lifestyle with other Ajarn readers on easily one of the most popular sections of the website, then we would love to hear from you! - go on! do a cost of living survey.

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